Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Disclosure Survey ~ Interim results - Disturbing results emerge

How should the legal system deal with your case if YOU were charged with a criminal offence?  You would be certain to wish for a fair hearing within a reasonable time by "an independent and impartial tribunal."  The quoted words are from the European Convention on Human Rights and they reflect the position as it is established in the legal systems of the United Kingdom.

In England and Wales, that "independent and impartial tribunal" will often be the Magistrates' Court where around 90% of criminal cases are dealt with but it seems that all is far from well in those courts. 

The on going Criminal Law Solicitors' Association (CLSA) survey on Disclosure is showing that there is a serious problem regarding disclosure to the defence.   Please read Minted Law -  Interim CLSA Disclosure Survey Results where it is said that - " ... the results so far reveal ... a landscape that is an utter disgrace that should be an embarrassment to those presiding over this thoroughly shabby state of affairs in our criminal Justice system. It shows an increasingly prevalent undermining of the law and Criminal Procedure rules."

It appears that District Judges (Magistrates' Courts), Legal Advisers in Magistrates' Courts and, sometimes, even lay justices are complicit in a culture in which the Crown Prosecution Service is given excessive leeway regarding failures, in breach of the Criminal Procedure Rules, to disclose evidence.  On the other hand, the defence is often pressured to "get on with it" because it is said that defendants know what happened and whether they have committed the offence. 

The survey results to date show a disturbing picture which applies nationally in Magistrates' Courts and the infection may be spreading to the Crown Court.   The fear is that the impartiality of the court is being lost and, even more fundamentally, the presumption of innocence itself is under threat.

Please read the interim survey results - here is the link again - and if you are concerned (and you should be) then please raise the matter with your Member of Parliament or with the Ministry of Justice or the House of Commons Justice Committee.

Previous post on this topic - Disclosure - an on-going problem in criminal cases

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